Friday, October 31, 2008

frisco flip

2 parts Rittenhouse Rye
1 part Benedictine
1 egg
2 dashes Boker's Bitters

Shake vigorously with cracked ice until the egg is emulsified and pour into a cocktail glass. Then add the Boker's to the foamy goodness.

Fred was feeling under the weather last evening, so on my way home from dinner with my co-workers [1], I made a solo trip to Rendezvous for walnut cake and a drink. While I don't have any problems with eating dinner alone at a restaurant, I don't feel entirely comfortable sitting at a bar alone because of my overwhelming shyness. Drinking cocktails just seems like a fundamentally social activity, and I usually rely on super-social Fred to strike up a conversation with a stranger when the bartender is otherwise occupied. Fortunately, Scott is great at facilitating introductions, and he introduced me to two other people at the bar who happened to be friends of his visiting from out of town. In almost no time, I found myself having a wholly engaging conversation with them and time flew (a bit too much, Fred was fast asleep by the time I got home).

I knew that I only wanted a single cocktail, and Jess has been making me jealous with all of these flips she's been writing about. It's rare that I order any flips, since Fred isn't a fan of egg-based cocktails, and my general rule is to get a cocktail that he can happily sample as well. I thought some kind of flip would go well with the walnut cake, so I asked Scott if he felt like making one. He came up with this variation of a Frisco, in honor of the fact that one of my conversation partners currently lives there (as did I, once upon a time) [2]. He lacked any nutmeg to grate over the top, but the added Boker's shifted the scent of the cocktail in the correct flippy direction. It was rich enough without any simple syrup and complemented the quince compote and crème fraîche perfectly.

I finished the evening with a discussion of touchscreen tactile feedback and a pony of green Chartreuse, then said my goodbyes and headed home [3].

[1] Authentic German food and *75* beers on draft!! The Horseshoe Pub in Hudson is an annual field trip for us during the month of October, when they have a special German food menu. I finally got to taste Berkshire Brewing's Coffeehouse Porter (on nitro). And eat more wiener schnitzel. And see tons of kids in Halloween costumes pass out on the chairs after their sugar high - Hudson had their Main Street Trick or Treat event last night.

[2] She told me that Absinthe is *the* place to get a classic cocktail in SF. Very fondly do I remember a few of the meals I had there when I lived just up the hill. The lavender crème brûlée I had there in '99 was possibly the best dessert I've ever had in my life.

[3] You'd think that all the heavy german food + beer + cocktail + dessert would be the perfect recipe for a good night's sleep, but instead I was awake until 5:30AM. What else was in that flip (or cake)? I felt like pure vibrational energy.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

new york flip

1 1/2 oz Rittenhouse 100
1/2 oz Tawny port
3/4 oz Simple syrup
3/4 oz Heavy cream
one whole egg

Shake the hell out of it with lots of ice, strain into a wineglass, and grate some nutmeg over the top.

Photo added by Frederic 5/3/12, Green Street
I could swear I've had one of these before*, but I must not have written it up... Towards the tail end of a odd day in which I was preternaturally perky, we stopped in at Eastern Standard for dinner before going to Ceremony -- obviously, I needed some alcohol to tone my mood down to an appropriately goth-introspective-dour level. Hugh's psychic link to me was especially strong, and extended to all of my food choices as well (there is an amazing bread pudding on the menu now... if you love butterscotch and caramel half as much as I do, you'll love it). This flip was a perfect finisher for me that night: not as much of a confection as flips are often wont to be, and the bit of tawny port was enough to warm it up without making it too smoky. Hugh made a small deviation from the recipe as posted: no nutmeg, and a mix of rock candy syrup and simple syrup (which was perfect, as I don't think the nutmeg was necessary with what I was eating). And: a perfect pairing with that bread pudding!

A final shot of Fernet, and I was ready for a night that ended with a song I have not heard played in a club for a good decade: Beers, Steers, and Queers (direct link to sound file at Rhapsody, may not be safe for work); I guess my drinks put me in more of a stompy mood than anything, and that's hardly a bad thing. :D

*And indeed, I had! I have Kit @ES to thank for that at some point in my blurry past.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

[orangy rye sherry cocktail]

2 oz Michter's Rye
1/2 oz Lustau East India Solera Sherry
1/2 oz Creole Shrub
1 dash Bittermens Bitters Sweet Chocolate Bitters
Stirred with ice and strained into a cocktail glass.

My errands the other day took me rather close to Eastern Standard so I decided to be decadent and drop in for a drink. Hugh interrupted his citrus prep work to make me a cocktail. Upon hearing that I wanted rye, he had an idea of using sherry in "Redhook proportions"; however, he was lost as to the third ingredient. We were both on the same page as I suggested the orangy Creole Shrub and he griped about needing to shake the bar's reliance on Amer Picon as their supplies were dwindling.

I think the Creole Shrub was not the right choice as it is more subtle of a flavor and it got squashed by the large rye and sherry components. Amer Picon definitely would have held its own in that ratio. A possibility that sprung into my head afterwards was Averna or another one of the amaros on their shelf which are generally fuller bodied and more rugged than the Creole Shrub.

Overall, not a bad drink despite my liqueur choice and one with decent promise.

[st. germain rum drink]

1 1/2 oz Hurricane Rum
3/4 oz St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
2 dashes Nasturtium Bitters
Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass pre-rinsed with Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur. Flamed lime peel over drink (discarded after rimming the edge of glass).

For my second drink at Deep Ellum, Max Toste wanted to make me something with the nasturtium bitters I had just given him. After telling him that they worked well with rum, he asked if I approved of St. Germain.

The rum he chose is a relatively dry one from Cisco Brewers in Nantucket, MA. Thankfully it was not a sweeter one since I was not expecting a 2:1 ratio with the already pretty sweet St. Germain. While the drink ended up being not overly sweet, the St. Germain did overwhelm the ginger liqueur and nasturtium bitter flavors. However, it did not overwhelm the flamed lime which gave a great aroma to the drink. Lime oils are so rarely used by bartenders, especially compared to orange and lemon, that it was a rather novel and pleasing note. It was also good that Max discarded the peel after the flaming; while some are a fan of the carbon residue, I prefer it not to be present as an off-tasting smudge across my beverage.

Also, Max did a little experimenting with the nasturtium bitters and said that they worked well with blanco tequila. A similar observation about nasturtiums was made by the Intoxicated Zodiac who made nasturtium-infused tequila for her margarita-like drink called La Flor Picante.

the bohannon

2 oz Plymouth Gin
1/2 oz Green Chartreuse
1/2 oz Swedish Punch (Housemade)
Stirred with ice and strained into a cocktail glass. A small shake of freshly ground pepper on top.

Last night, Andrea and I went to Allston, MA, to get dinner at Grasshopper. After dinner, we rounded the corner to go to Deep Ellum for drinks (and hot pretzels!). Since I had been on a big dark spirit kick lately, I decided to seek out something gin based. The Bohannon caught my eye on the menu, and Max Toste said that he was about to suggest that very drink. He explained that it was a house original made by one of the other bartenders at Deep Ellum.

The Swedish Punch did a great job of smoothing out the gap between the gin and the Chartreuse. Not that the gap needs to be filled in (see my love of the Alaska), but it did serve to make it a less sharp drink. Max makes his own Swedish Punch and tasting the botanical grits at the bottom of my glass reminded me that he used a bit of cardamom and nutmeg; prior to draining my drink, a fine layer of citrus bits could be seen floating on the surface. And looking back at my notes on the Hesitation cocktail, there is indeed lemon juice, cardamom, and nutmeg besides simple syrup and Batavia Arrack in Max's punch.

:: beer virgin ::

OK, so I'm not really a beer virgin, more like a beer dilettante. But Lauren Clark's recent post has inspired me to write a little bit about beer. That, plus the fact that I've been on a beer kick the last couple of weeks.

Last evening, Fred and I opted for a trip out to Allston for dinner at Grasshopper and drinks at Deep Ellum. I had to get up far too early this morning to call some colleagues in France, so I decided that I'd be better off drinking some of Deep Ellum's fine, fine beers (because I can never stop with just one of Max's cocktails, and two means I hand the car keys to Fred).

Max asked me what beer I've been drinking lately, but I've really been all over the map (literally) - an Opa Opa IPA and some german octoberfest at a party on Sunday, and a Sapporo with Malaysian food on Saturday (OK so the Sapporo was Canadian, but still). Max asked if I like bitter or fruity (bitter, kthxbye), so he poured me a glass of his favorite, De Ranke's "XX Bitter". Bitter it was, pleasingly so. The bitter vanishes off the tongue almost instantly and one is left with a nice clean finish. It was a perfectly refreshing beer, and I astounded myself by actually finishing the whole glass. In the past, I've had difficulty getting past 8 oz., partly because my tastebuds just get bored by the flavor of beer. About the only bottle I could reliably finish was Sam Adams' Black Lager. The XX Bitter went down fast and left me thinking I could even have one more beer.

I wasn't quite sure which direction I wanted to take after this, so Max poured me a couple of samples. The first one was Avery's "15th Anniversary" Ale, made with wild yeasts. And they certainly were wild. Had that nice dirty sock aroma that tells you you're in for somethin' special. The flavor was sharp at first and very bleu cheesy. Mmmm it would taste pretty wonderful with cheese. I really liked the beer, but I wasn't quite sure I could finish an entire glass of it. The second sample was Gouden Carolus' "Hopsinjoor", but this was too fruity for me, though the yeastiness was pleasant. Max then poured me a sample of Six Point's "Belgian Rye". He said it's made with Belgian candi sugar, which gives it a thicker body. It was nice and hoppy with that distinct rye sharpness. I took a full-sized glass of this and made my way through about half before I decided that finishing it might compromise my plan to awaken early the next day. If I hadn't had the two other (generous) samples, I probably could have finished it - it really was tasty.

Thanks, Max, for broadening my beer horizons. More experimentation is clearly warranted.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

[tequila and sweet vermouth]

Milagro blanco tequila
Sweet Vermouth (Stir-made)
Lime juice
Bittermens Xocolatl Mole bitters

This is the middle child of the drinks that I sampled at Drink a couple Mondays ago.

I decided to move from gin- to tequila-based cocktails. Tequila can be a tough base for many bartenders who don't want to go the margarita-derived route. Sam decided to split the difference, complementing the lime with some of the sweet vermouth that Ben had made during a recent Stir class on vermouths. He's still playing with this cocktail formulation, and when I noted to him that it seemed to be missing something, he said he had made it earlier with some apricot liqueur. That might have done the trick, though I mentioned that it might be lovely with some crème de pêche and Fred thought maybe cassis. The cocktail did have a nice chocolate flavor right at the bottom of the glass.

I requested, and graciously received, a sample of the sweet vermouth. It tasted somewhat tropical-fruity to me - Ben popped over at this point and said this vermouth was very "fruit-forward". It was certainly delightful enough for me to want to drink straight on the rocks. I think Sam's intuition was going in the right direction in using this, and the xocolatl too. I'll have to remember to ask him what else he's done with it next time I see him.

I've had stellar tequila cocktails at Eastern Standard (Tom's Jaguar comes to mind) and Green Street (Flora Vieja). I while back I caught Misty in a talkative mood behind the bar (normally she's admirably focused, and busy, while she's working). She had mixed me up a tequila-based cocktail she'd been working on and had not yet named (for some odd reason I decided to hold off on the review until she names it). She also finds tequila tough to mix, though it mixes surprisingly well with St. Germain. Autumn offers up many opportunities to mix in some funky flavors - pumpkin spice, praline, apple - and I think with some work tequila can make the transition from a summer drink.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

:: jessica goes to SF, and takes poor notes at Bourbon & Branch::

So I think I've discovered the secret to becoming a successful blogger (whatever the hell that means): get someone else to do all of your writing, sit back, and enjoy! I've had my notebook sitting here next to my computer for weeks -- months! -- yet I never actually cracked it to recount my notes. To bring you up to speed on my scintillating life:

So I ended up going to San Francisco! It was sort of unplanned, but there was this wedding in Calistoga that came up a few days before my "the hell I'm going to Burning Man, give me Las Vegas instead" jaunt, so obviously I had to take advantage of the days in-between... So here are the two drinks I had at Bourbon & Branch, which unfortunately I never bothered to record my impressions of, just the ingredients.
The Clermont Affair
pear-infused Old Overholt
Amaro Nonino
dash whiskey-barrel aged bitters
clove essence
Amusingly, the Libertarian we were with ended up ordering a drink called "The Democrat".
Rolls Royce
sweet vermouth
dry vermouth
(I found a recipe online, although I'm not sure the same proportions were used)
Bourbon & Branch has a really cute sign above the door, and the interior is rather lovely. (Leaving: I was not quite prepared for the reality of the Tenderloin on a weeknight) I found the whole "secret password" thing sort of contrived, but I am snarky and no fun. We were not seated at the bar which, I am finding, really makes the experience for me (sigh). I remember finding the drinks tasty and well-mixed, but not terribly exciting. I think I may have become spoiled by the excellent bartenders we have here in Boston, and my expectations have grown so high that even great service elsewhere does not impress as it ought to.

[old tom gin, apple brandy, and st. germain]

1 3/4 oz. Old Tom Gin
1/2 oz. Apple Brandy (Laird's 7 1/2 year old was used)
1/4 oz. St. Germain
1 dash Bittermens Orange No. 9

Stir with cracked ice, strain and serve in a cocktail glass. Squeeze a lemon peel over the drink and discard.

My inaugural cocktail at Drink, consumed (with much relish) 13 October. When Fred and I walked into Drink, we spotted Ben on the right-hand wing of the bar, John on the left, and a vaguely familiar-looking fellow in the center. John's bar looked a tiny bit too crowded, and Ben seemed distracted by a crowd of industry-looking people, so we selected the middle section and it was just right.

We sat down and Sam, our bartender, introduced himself. In case the reader isn't familiar with the format of Drink, there are no cocktail menus - the bartender must rely on expert communication and practically encyclopedic knowledge to come up with a beverage that (s)he thinks you might like, based on few clues. I was in the mood for a gin-based cocktail, and stated that I preferred my cocktails on the drier side. Sam said he's been working on a gin cocktail with just a wee bit of St. Germain - enough to impart the distinct elderflower flavor without a hefty slug of sweetness. I've enjoyed many tequila-based cocktails made with St. Germain - the smokiness of the tequila cuts the sweet quite nicely - but I find most other St. Germain cocktails to be too candied for my palate.

It was fun to watch Sam at work in Mr. Gertsen's apothecary - he exactingly measured out the proportions in little stainless OXO measuring cups, and dispensed the bitters using a medicine dropper. In keeping with another of Drink's gimmicks, the bottles are kept under the bar, and one is consequently forced into opening a dialog with the bartender in order to ascertain which brand of spirit was used in his/her creation. Imagine my delight when Sam told me that he used the newly-available Old Tom Gin in my cocktail. The Old Tom tastes practically ambrosial in the Ramos Gin Fizz, and it functioned much the same way in this (unnamed) cocktail. Indeed, this drink was perfectly balanced, and I made up my mind right at that moment that John had found yet another bartender who *gets it*.

While I sipped this ethereal delight, Teardrop by Massive Attack came on Drink's speakers. I could almost imagine dancing around this somewhat austere basement industrial space, much like a certain club we used to frequent.

fort point cocktail

2 oz. Rye (Old Overholt was used)
1/2 oz. Punt e Mes
1/4 oz. Benedictine

Stir with chipped ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Serve with a brandied cherry on the side.

A belated post from my first trip to Drink on 13 October. This was my last cocktail (of 3) for the night. This cocktail is as close as Drink comes to a "signature cocktail" - really, all of their cocktails are so singular. Sam mixed this up expertly and it was a perfect way to finish my cocktailing proper for the evening.

After I finished this drink, I went over to the other wing of the bar to say "Hi" to John. Seated to our right, Brother Cleve recognized us from the Haus Alpenz tasting at Deep Ellum and introduced us to his friend Pratap (sorry if I got the spelling not quite correct). We chatted while John poured me a lil something, darned if I can remember what, but it was home-made and tasty. Ah! yes, I remember - Ben's (respectable) attempt to duplicate Carpano Antica Formula! The scent was virtually dead-on, but the body was a tad lighter. And that kind of stuff is what really makes John's bars unique - his generous offers to sample some of the works-in-progress. Fred and I are always game for tasty experiments.

avec le feu

2 oz. Ricard
3/4 oz. honey syrup (1:1 with water)
1 spritz of Clove spray (near as I can tell, it was a high-proof alcohol infusion)

Heat a 10 oz. mug with hot water (save hot water in another mug). Mix above ingredients in warmed mug, add hot water to top off. Garnish with a flamed lemon peel.

Fred DJ-ed last night at Ceremony - his 9th year running! I was feeling chilled, so I suggested hitting Eastern Standard for a nightcap afterwards.

Hugh asked me what I wanted, and my reply was "Hot." ES hasn't yet made the transition to the winter menu, but he suggested a hot pastis-based drink and mixed this up for me. You really have to be a pastis freak to love it - fortunately, I am such a freak.

It warmed me nicely, though I could have done with about 2 oz. less of the hot water (it cooled before I was completely finished). Normally they make this drink with a barspoon of pure honey instead of the syrup, but I find that the Ricard has enough sweetness for me, so I didn't miss the thicker honey shot. I also made the interesting discovery that flamed lemon peels aren't too awful (I still hate flamed orange, though). The flamed lemon did add a nice scent and just the right hint of flavor. I couldn't really taste/smell the clove except as a faint breath at the first sip. Fred isn't a clove fan, so even he liked it. I'd love to try making this at home, with some of the honey my co-worker gave me from her farm in Southboro. Mmmm.

Monday, October 20, 2008

celery bitters

Back in the 1800's and early 1900's, a variety of snake oil-like medicines full of bitter botanicals found their way into cocktail mixing glasses for their flavor and not their medicinal claims. One of them was celery bitters which were sold by many companies including Brod, Gold Lion, Gladstone, and Paine (a bottle collector's page here). Celery seeds have a celery odor and taste with an extra bit of bitterness to them that mixologists of yore found to be quite tasty in certain cocktails.

Up until recently, celery bitters were a defunct bar reagent. The German company, the Bitter Truth, has concocted some; however, I have not spotted a bottle in Massachusetts and the best I could do is pay for it to be shipped over here. Considering the last time I had bitters shipped to my house (Peychaud's) which resulted in the only package I have ever had turn up as missing but officially "delivered" by the USPS, I decided to wait. Impatience took over and I tried my own hand at a recipe.

I designed this recipe having never tasted the Bitter Truth's apparently amazing product and only heard that it had citrus tones to it. I decided to take it in a different direction. I was inspired by the concept of a British soda containing dandelion and burdock[1] and based the recipe around celery seeds and these two botanicals:
Yarm's Celery Bitters
• 40 grams Celery Seed
• 10 grams Burdock Root
• 10 grams Barberry Root
• 5 grams Dandelion Leaf
• 5 grams Gentian
• 5 grams Cardamon Pod
• 3 grams Spearmint (fresh)
• 2 grams Corriander Seed
Add 10 oz Bacardi 151 proof Rum and 5 oz water. Let infuse for 10 days with frequent mixing. Filter through a coffee filter, and bottle.

My first scaled-up batch of bitters were rather delightful during the infusion process in the overproof rum. However, when I added the water to cut down the alcohol, it underwent an intense louching. Much of the flavor precipitated out of solution and later attempts to increase the alcohol only helped slightly. The second batch was not as flavorful either due to a differently sourced batch of celery seeds or because I was only using 100 proof alcohol instead of 150 proof during the infusion process.

I discussed this project with Jackson Cannon of Eastern Standard, and he recommended trying it with Pimm's since it works well with vegetable flavors (although Hendrick's gin might also work in the same way). My idea was to use rhum agricole to match the funkiness of bitters. To bring the two together, I changed Eastern Standard's recipe for the Rye and Dry accordingly:
Rhum and Dry
• 1 oz Rhum JM
• 1 oz Pimm's No. 1
• 1 oz Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth
• 3 dash Celery Bitters
Stir on ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

Jackson was right in how the celery flavors would work well with the Pimm's, and I found the herbalness of the rest of the bitters to complement the rhum agricole. The cocktail had a rather pleasant celery aftertaste with a bit of extra complexity over the dry vermouth flavors. While the bitters seem to have a much less limited range than say Angostura in cocktails, I was not disappointed with the end result.

[1] Nov 12, 2008 postnote: A blog I just found today gives a great homemade dandelion and burdock syrup recipe for making your own soda:

Friday, October 17, 2008


1 1/2 oz. bourbon
1/2 oz. orange curaçao
egg white
1/4 oz. grenadine
1/4 oz. pastis

Shake with ice. Strain and serve in a cocktail glass.

Recipe from Don't use it, it's pretty unremarkable when made this way. I'll explain.

After making the grave error of ordering a before-dinner drink after dinner, I decided I couldn't go wrong with a pastis-based drink. So, that is what I requested from Scott at Rendezvous for my second cocktail. He decided I had to try his variant of the Millionaire.

The color of the drink was an intriguingly opaque pale purple. Scott told me he used the Old Fitzgerald Bonded for the bourbon, which I had admired on one of my previous visits. I did a quick search for the recipe on cocktaildb, and when I showed him the recipe above, he noted that he had tinkered with it substantially. I'm pretty sure he said he used 2 oz. bourbon, and I think he used more pastis and less grenadine. He also noted that it took him a long time to learn how to make the cocktail properly - the amount of egg white is the key. He only uses a fraction of the white, probably not even half. And it was perfect, the white gave body and opacity only with no hint of smell or flavor.

When I suggested the Millionaire cocktaildb recipe to Hugh at Eastern Standard a few nights later, he dutifully made one for my friend Tim. He used 1 1/5 oz. of Michter's rye instead of bourbon, and I cautioned him to be conservative with the egg white. The result just wasn't that tasty, and fell flat. Other cocktail reviewers online had noted this about the recipe as well. Scott's version has certainly elevated the Millionaire far above its dubious reputation.

In my preparation for writing this entry, I searched the intarwebz for a recipe that might give me a clue about the rest of the proportions Scott used. David Wondrich's recipe over at Esquire's website seemed the closest, for all that it omits the pastis. His commentary appealed to the Marxist in me:
The typical millionaire, circa 1920: top hat, tails, sweep-fendered Rolls-Royce, the whole Scrooge McDuck bit. An image with traction. In fact, it spawned several cocktails of that name, none of which a true millionaire would order. It was bad enough that these formulae wore their aspirations on their sleeves -- back then, in the age before Trump with a capital T, a millionaire had to at least pretend that it wasn't all about the Benjamins. Worse, though, most of 'em sucked. But here's one -- created at London's top-shelf Ritz Hotel, sometime before 1925 -- that "tastes sense," as Lawton Mackall put it in Esquire's October 1940 "Potables" column. Sweet, pleasant, even jovial. In fact, judging from actual millionaires we have met, rather atypical.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

rome is burning

1 1/2 oz. cognac
3/4 oz. Punt e Mes
1/4 oz. grenadine
3 dashes Peychaud's bitters

Stir on ice jusque à froid. Strain into a cocktail glass.

Add 1 1/2 - 2 oz. Lambrusco.

Transcribed on 4 October, 2008 from a register tape filled with elegant, rounded script (not my own).

Yes, yes, I know. A bit late with my posts. Work's been busy, but now that I've emerged somewhat from paperwork hell, I can catch up.

Fred had suggested that we stop in at Rendezvous a couple of Saturdays ago. I felt nicely warmed by the glass of crusted port with which I had finished my dinner at Vee Vee, and so I took him up on the suggestion. Scott greeted us with his usual friendly half-smile and poured us some water while we settled into seats nearest the door. Looking over the menu, I decided on Rome is Burning, for no other reason than the name sounded so very evocative. "Yes, indeed, Rome is Burning."

The nose was very grapey. The color - darkest purple-red. The taste - much sweeter than I anticipated, with a very slight effervescent bite. Sadly, I concluded it really wasn't what I wanted to drink à ce moment-là. The bartender later warned me that the cocktail is more of an apéritif, and I can see that the flavor might have worked better had I not just eaten (and imbibed) something sweet (a slice of cheesecake and the aforementioned port). So I passed the cocktail glass off to Fred. I still wanted a cocktail, so I waited while Fred finished my drink before requesting another drink.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


1 1/2 oz Plymouth Gin
1 1/2 oz Martini & Rossi Sweet Vermouth
2 barspoons Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
1 dash Angostura Orange Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Twist lemon peel over drink.

Last night, I met Andrea at Green Street where she was attending the LUPEC Meet & Greet and I sat down for a drink. LUPEC put together a short menu of 4 cocktails (as a supplement to Green Street's extensive list): the Hearst, English Rose, Gin n' Sin, and the Martinez.

I asked Andy to make me a Martinez (the alleged predecessor of the modern Martini), and I was curious which recipe he would use. He used an equal parts one. This puts it as an intermediate recipe by comparing the gin to sweet vermouth ratios. The first Martinez I tasted was one at home from The Ultimate Bar Book which I have made with regular gin to decent success and with Genevers, Oude and Jonge, to great success. The recipe is a 4 to 1 as follows:

Martinez a la Mittie Hellmich
2 oz Old Tom Gin
1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth
1/4 oz Maraschino Liqueur
1 dash Orange Bitters

The older version is the Jerry Thomas one. I had one of these made with Old Tom Gin at Deep Ellum when Eric Seed was showcasing his new products. There Max Toste mixed with Hayman's Old Tom Gin and Dolin Sweet Vermouth. The recipe is a 1 to 2 as follows:

Martinez a la Jerry Thomas
2 oz Sweet Vermouth
1 oz Old Tom Gin
1 tsp Maraschino Liqueur
1 dash Boker's Bitters
Optional: 1/2 tsp Gum Syrup for extra sweetness
Garnish with a lemon wedge

This version highlighted the vermouth much more which worked rather well with the amazing Dolin Sweet Vermouth which was good enough to drink straight (which we did do!). One theory I read was that the gins of that time period were much stronger (cask proof) and needed to be diluted more to make a comparable drink to what we make with today's 80 proof gins.

I just find it interesting how the trend of drying out the Martinez as shown by these three recipes mirrors how Martinis have been dried out historically by decreasing the proportion of dry vermouth down to a dash if that on the driest end. Clearly, with a vermouth worthy of drinking on its own, either drink can work magnificently well with a larger proportion of vermouth.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

bourbon corpse reviver no. 2

3/4 oz Gin Bourbon
3/4 oz Cointreau
3/4 oz Lillet Blanc
3/4 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
2 dashes Herbsaint

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

For my last cocktail last night at Drink, I asked Sam to keep with the dark spirits and use Bourbon and I wanted him to use Pastis. Sam smiled and went to work. The bar was hitting a second wave of people by this point -- the industry crowd was filtering in -- so I missed some of the ingredients that he used. I did see the Lillet and the Herbsaint, but I did not see or ask what whiskey he used. The recipe above, save for the strikethrough, is copied from Chuck Taggart's site and may not perfectly reflect the drink I received. I assumed that Sam kept the proportions of this classic rather true to the recipe.

The swapping of the gin for a darker spirit added a richness that I have previously experienced in the Final Ward's use of rye in place of the Last Word's gin. The Bourbon did mask the Herbsaint and Lillet flavors a bit more than the gin version of the Corpse Reviver No. 2 would, so the focus of the drink was shifted slightly although not in a bad way.

My googling brought up an interesting article in Kaiser Penguin's blog discussing the Corpse Reviver No. 2. In the comment section, one guest wrote how the Twentieth Century Cocktail (gin, Lillet, lemon, light creme de cacao) which has some similarities to this Corpse Reviver was Bourbonfied into the Nineteenth Century Cocktail by Brian Miller (Pegu Club/Death & Co.) in a similar way. We might have to try the 19th Century at home some time...

[dark rum and carpano antica]

1 1/2 oz Old Monk Rum
1 oz Carpano Antica Vermouth
1/2 oz Benedictine
2 dashes Bittermens ‘Elemakule Tiki Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into an old-style cocktail glass.

For my second cocktail last night at Drink, I told Sam that I wanted to switch base spirits to a medium or dark rum and I was interested to see what he could do with that and Carpano Antica (I wrote about my first Carpano Antica cocktail experience in this post when Eastern Standard had a bottle). I left the rum choice and other ingredients up to him.
Sam chose Old Monk, a rum from India that is infused with vanilla, and picked Benedictine and Tiki bitters to round out the drink with a bit of complexity. The choice of Old Monk was a good one since the strong vanilla tones played rather well with the other flavors in the bitters, vermouth, and Benedictine. Overall the drink had a delightful sherry-esque taste to it. The poor quality photo above (camera phone sans flash) shows the vintage (or reproduction?) glassware at Drink. It also shows some of the old wool mill's character of the place with the brick and stone walls (although the amazing large exposed wood beams are not captured in this picture). In addition, the center of the photo shows the bowl of fresh citrus fruits and the wide variety of potted herbs (everything from curry to basil to hot pepper plants) that they use for garnish and flavoring in their creations.

Sam was pleased enough with his creation that he later made one for a gentleman at the other side of the bar.

[rye bittery experiment]

1 1/2 oz Old Overholdt Rye
1 oz Green Chartreuse
1/2 oz Averna
1 dash Fee's Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters

Stirred with ice and strained into a rocks glass.

Last night, Andrea and I finally made it over to Drink in Fort Point Channel here in Boston. We figured that we would avoid the first week's crowds coupled with the bar's settling in process zaniness. We ended up sitting at the center of three connected bars (think the letter 'E' in block format). The left and right were John Gertsen and Ben Sandrof, both of No. 9 fame; the center bar where there were a few open seats was Sam, an old Eastern Standard alumni, who would be our bartender for the night.

Drink's format is a menuless one. The bartenders size you up during conversation to figure out what you would like to have. Around us, people were mentioning base spirits, dryness levels, fruit flavors, or herbal notes as starting points. I told Sam that I wanted something with rye and bitters to which he asked if I wanted something in the Manhattan vein. When I replied that I enjoyed bitter liqueurs, he asked if I liked Chartreuse. My answer was for him to go ahead and make something with rye and one of the Chartreuses.

Sam chose the green Chartreuse after picking up and putting down the yellow. He decided to fill in the gaps with Averna, an Italian Amaro that we're fond of at home. His creation gave all the appearances of a pure improvisation which is a neat feel. The end result was a slightly syrupy Green Point-tasting drink that was a pleasant sipper. It worked rather well as a digestif since my tummy was still full of dinner.

Friday, October 10, 2008

amaretto sour

This month's Mixology Monday theme, "Guilty Pleasures" (MxMo XXXII), was chosen by Stevi from Two At The Most. Stevi gave the description as, "October's Mixology Monday will be a tribute to our guilty pleasures. Write about that one cocktail that, no matter how many times you're told it's no good for you, is the one near and dear to your heart. Feel free to celebrate your drink in all its pre-mix glory. Or try to dress it up, show us that when made right, it's a worthy drink, we've just misjudged it."

Thinking back a bit before I got into craft cocktails, one of the few hard alcohol bottles I owned was Disarono Amaretto. It was rather handy back in my grad school days in the mid to late 90's since it worked with whatever juice I happened to have on hand and amaretto is rather pleasing and unchallenging. I had no shame then ordering and quaffing a chick drink such as an amaretto sour at a dance club and it did provide a gateway to trying whiskey in the form of whiskey sours. However, this time I wanted to try to bring some dignity to this drink in two ways: one, by not using pre-fab sour mix, and two, by making my own amaretto.

The recipe I went with was from Epicurious. I cut the quantities down by four fold and adapted this batch slightly:

Homemade Amaretto
• 2 oz almonds (by weight)
• 1 tsp dried orange peel
• 1 dried apricot
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 4 oz brandy
• 2 oz vodka
• 2 oz sugar (by volume)
• 1 oz water
Grind almonds and orange peel in coffee grinder, and finely chop the apricot. Put the dry ingrients, liquors, and vanilla in a jar and steep for 6-8 weeks. Then make the 2:1 simple syrup through heating the sugar-water solution. Let cool, add to jar, strain, and finally filter through a coffee filter.

Since I did not have 6-8 weeks of notice for this project, the batch steeped for only a week and a half which is one of the reasons I cut the recipe down to only a few ounces. My ingredients notes say that I used Courvoisier VSOP Cognac and Ketel One vodka.
The recipe I went with was rather simple:

Amaretto Sour
• 2 oz amaretto
• 1 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
Shake with ice and strain. Garnish with an orange or lemon twist.

Unlike Disarono brand, this amaretto was lighter and nuttier. Andrea noted that it had an almost bready smell to her nose. The drink itself was not cloyingly sweet and it had a greater depth of flavor than the standard store bought amarettos I have tasted. The greater flavor might also be due to how commercial brands use more essential oils and less raw materials (not to mention artificial flavorings in some cases). It would have been interesting to taste my batch after a full two months of steeping, but alas, this Mixology Monday had a deadline.

While it was the first amaretto of any sort that I have drank since I last made a Three-Legged Monkey (equal parts whiskey, amaretto, and pineapple juice) a few years ago, yes, amaretto still has a strange and guilty place in my heart.

UPDATE: Visit the MxMo 32 recap of forty-something {!} different cocktailians' guilty pleasures... Also a great way to learn about new blogs.

[nightcap a la daniel eun]

1 oz Averna
1 oz Campari
1/2 oz Punt e Mes
1/2 oz Martini & Rossi Sweet Vermouth
Flamed Orange Peel

Stirred with ice, flavored with the flamed orange peel, and strained into cordial shot glasses.

Hugh Fiore ended our evening at Eastern Standard by pouring Tim, Andrea, and I a round of a nightcap sipper that Daniel Eun of Please Don't Tell taught him how to make. The original recipe would require two parts of a Chinato, a quinine-containing aromatic full-bodied red wine. Since Chinato is hard to come by in Massachusetts (although Jackson did say earlier in the night that they might have it at the bar soon!), a substitution of half sweet vermouth and half Punt e Mes was used.

The only other nightcap that has come close to this drink was Eastern Standard's Kevin Martin pouring us a round of Little Italy (2 oz rye, 1/2 oz Cynar, 3/4 oz sweet vermouth) a little over a year ago.

[mirto cocktails]

Last night, Tim called us up and asked us if we wanted to meet him at Eastern Standard for which we were game. When we arrived, we found Tim talking to Jackson Cannon as they were drinking Corpse Reviver #3's (equal parts Cognac, Fernet-Branca, and creme de menthe). Jackson asked us what we wanted to drink tonight to which I replied "rye and Chartreuse". Jackson said he had a bitter he would like me to try that might fill the Chartreuse need. That bitter was Mirto, a Sardinian liqueur made with myrtle berries and leaves. While the drink he had been working on was gin-based, he said that he could try it with rye. I replied that I would be willing to go with gin especially if that was what he was comfortable trying. Jackson asked if I was up for two cocktails, one with each base spirit, since he wanted to give the rye version a shot.

Since Jackson had hung up the apron for the night, Hugh Fiore took over. The gin-based recipe he made for me was:

2 oz Plymouth Gin
1/2 oz Martini & Rossi Dry Vermouth
1/2 oz Amer Picon
2 barspoons Mirto

Stirred with ice and strained into a coupe. Garnished with a flamed orange peel.

The Mirto itself was syrupy sweet with a piny taste; Tim likened it to eucalyptus. In the cocktail, the Mirto played rather well with the Amer Picon for complementary bitter fruit flavors and with the vermouth and gin for sharper notes.
For my second drink, Hugh tried his hand at developing the rye version with guidance from Jackson. I watched as the first two versions got dumped before they were willing to serve me a drink they were proud of. And it was well worth their added effort for this:

2 oz Rittenhouse Rye
1/2 oz Martini & Rossi Bianco Vermouth
1/2 oz Bauchant Orange Liqueur
2 barspoons Mirto
1 dash Bittermens Boston Bitters

Stirred with ice and strained into a coupe sans garnish.

The Rittenhouse brought out the spice in the Mirto and formed the base for a complex and tasty concoction. To substitute the orange flavor of the Amer Picon, Hugh used Bauchant, and he added Bittermen's Boston Bitters which is heavy on the citrus. The description of the Bauchant I found was "Delicate aromas of orange and tangerine; complex and elegant with intense fruit flavors underscored by notes of caramel and butterscotch." The variety of flavors and notes going on in that glass were rather stunning. Hopefully one or the other of these drinks makes it on to Eastern Standard's menu in the not so distant future.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

:: tanzanian gin ::

Our friends Cris and Nicole climbed Kilimanjaro a couple of weeks ago. We received their postcard in the mail yesterday. Cris wrote:

"So, apparently Tanzania distills its own gin. The spirit, Konyagi, tastes a bit harsh, which I suppose cuts through the cold nights on Kilimanjaro. The porters were fond of it, and while I wasn't up to sampling any while on the climb, the lodge that we're staying in while on safari keeps it behind the bar and are happy to serve the stuff to mzunga foreigners like myself.

... I also just taught the bartender here how to make a Manhattan and a Rob Roy. You all should be proud.

Fred and I are proud, indeed. Spread the cocktail love!! In added testament to how bad-ass Cris and Nicole are, they arrived at our Johnny Appleseed Punch Party a mere 4 hours after landing back in the states! They brought the bottle to show off.

I don't know if anyone was brave enough to try any. Here are more stories of Cris' amazing travels. And here is his superb write-up about teaching his bartender in Tarangire Park how to make a Manhattan.

post script: I tried the Konyagi a few weeks later during Cris' and Nicole's annual Canadian Thanksgiving feast. The gin is definitely on the sweeter side, and like Cris said it has a mellow, yet warming, bite. Nicole has developed quite a liking for it, and she learned that when she runs out she can still get it in DC if she chooses to make a little field trip.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

grapefruit bitters

While collecting bitters recipes from across the web, I found several for grapefruit bitters. Instead of following one recipe, I made a hybrid of the two I liked the best. One was from John Paul Deragon and the other from Chuck Taggart. With the Deragon recipe, I was intrigued by his flavoring with lavender in addition to other herbs such as gentian and spearmint, the latter of which was abundantly growing in my garden. With the Taggart recipe, I used his heavy-on-the-pith and bitterness focus on the grapefruit in addition to his use of corriander for an extra bite. My recipe based on these sources was the following:
Grapefruit Bitters
• 16 oz Bacardi 151 Rum
• 3 oz Water
• 160 g Grapefruit Rind (one rind with pith)
• 20 g Grapefruit Zest (zest of one grapefruit)
• 12 g Fresh Ginger (diced)
• 4 g Fresh Spearmint
• 10 g Dried Lavender
• 2 g Coriander Seed
Let steep for 10 days and filter. Extract the absorbed liquid from grapefruit pith using back of spoon and pressure, and filter.
• 5 tsp Sugar
Heat in a pot on a medium flame until the sugar is melted and is a light to medium brown, then add
• 3 tsp Water
Add to filtered liquid, mix, and bottle.
The end product was rather strong on the lavender although Andrea enjoyed that aspect more than I did. Perhaps halving the lavender next time would fit my tastes better. Here is one drink I made that seemed to work well with the flavors in these bitters:
RinQuinQuin Martini
• 2 oz Plymouth Gin
• 1/4 oz RinQuinQuin
• 1/4 oz Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth
• 3 dashes Grapefruit Bitters
Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass
RinQuinQuin is a French quinine-containing aromatized wine flavored with peach leaf, skin, and kernel (instead of the fruit itself). Read more about it in the Bunnyhugs blog which is where I got the idea for this drink (I was inspired by their RinQuinQuin Versper). The peach and grapefruit flavors in this recipe complement each other quite nicely.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

[rum prospect park-like cocktail]

2 oz Goslings Family Reserve Old Rum
1/2 oz Punt e Mes
1/2 oz Aperol

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

For one of my two drinks made by Hugh Fiore at Eastern Standard on Monday night, I gave him 3 boozes -- rum, Punt e Mes, and Aperol -- and left the rum choice and proportions up to him. The drink he came back with beyond my expectations.

The rum he selected was Goslings Family Reserve, Goslings' top tier dark rum which has been aged in oak barrels. The richness of the rum along with the other ingredients made for a rather chocolaty drink with a slight bitter edge to it.
Andrea made me pose with the gesture for this photo after I commented that the drink was like a "Prospect Park with balls".

[presidente-like cocktail]

2 oz Barbancourt Rhum
1/2 oz Creole Shrub
1/2 oz Carpano Antica Vermouth
1 d Fee's Aromatic Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

On Monday night, Andrea and I went to Eastern Standard for dinner and drinks. We were warmly greeted by Kevin Martin who told us about his experiences at the bartender exchange with Please Don't Tell (NYC) and showed us the bottle of Carpano Antica from his travels. Carpano Antica is a vermouth from the same people who make Punt e Mes and tries to recreate Antonio Benedetto Carpano's original recipe for vermouth from 1786. We got to taste some before asking to have cocktails made with it; we were not going to let the opportunity slip away since we have not seen it anywhere here in Boston.

My request for a rum and Carpano Antica cocktail was returned with this unnamed creation. The Creole Shrub added a subtle orange flavor to the cocktail. Compared to a Presidente which uses dry vermouth, the Carpano Antica exerted a little dominance over the Creole Shrub but was well balanced with the rum.